Browse the documents Browse the documents Search
Advanced search
The Flinders papersletters and documents about the explorer Matthew Flinders (1774-1814)
You are here: Flinders > Browse the Documents > Documents > Documents
All pages | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | Back to Index

Letter from Christopher Smith to Matthew Flinders (FLI01)

                            Prince Wales Island
My Dear Flinders
                              June 30th 1799

        On my arrival at Calcutta
from the Spice Islands in June 1798, I
had the pleasure to receive all your kind
and intelligent letters.
      It gives me infinite satisfaction
to see that you are in a fair way of
doing well. –
      I will now communicate to
you the out lines of ^ my peregrinations
since my arrival in India
      On my arrival in Calcutta
in February –95 I found Doctor Roxburgh
Superintendent of the Botanic Garden.
      For the first two months, the Doctor

the Doctor did not treat me with that
attention which I thought was due to
me; but I suppose the Dr though{t} oth-
erwise he never offerd [sic] to introduce me to
any person; this is what I complain of
most:– I had no letters of introduction
to any person, except one letter which
the Honble Mr Molesworth, Lord Molesworths
Brother gave me, to Colonel Auchmuty
who was then up the country along
with the Commander in Chief, Sir
Robert Abercromby
      On the arrival of General Sir
Robert Abercromby at Calcutta, I
went to his house, where I found
Colonel Auchmuty, I deliverd [sic] my
letter to him, after he had read the
letter he took me by the hand

and asked me if he could do any
thing for me.
      I told the Colonel, I did not wait
on him for the purpose of being trou-
blesome to him about favor, that I
did not come to India on speculation,
that I was already provided for, he
said that he understood so, & that he was
very happy to hear it, but he requested
that I would not be backward in pro-
posing any thing to him that which I
thought would be of Service to me, I
told him that an introduction was all
I requested at that time, and if I should
require any favor in future that I would
apply to him.
      He desired me to come to the

Generals Levy on the Thursday follow
-ing, and that he would introduce me
to Sir Robert this being done, on the
following Wednesday he took me to the
Governor Generals Levy and presented
me to Sir John Shore, (now Lord
Teignmouth) Soon after I got cards
of invitations from these great men,
and ever since I have been fortunate
to move in the first circle.
      Roxburgh saw plainly, that I got
head way, without any aƒsistance from
him, that I was taken notice of, & aƒso-
-ciated with the first families in
Calcutta. This caused him to alter his
treatment towards me, and during my
continuance in the Botanic Garden after
-wards he was very kind to me.

In October 95 I heard of an expedition
being fitted out at Madras for the Invasi-
-on of the Spice Island. I mention'd to
Dr Roxburgh that it would be a good opp
-ortunity to procure the Clove Nutmeg
and all the other Valuable plants of the
Moluccas, he approved of my proposition,
and the next day he spoke to Sir John
Shore about it, Sir John gave his Sanc-
tion, and on the 17th December I sailed
from Calcutta for Prince Wales Isla-
-nd, with a view of takeing [sic] my paƒs-
-age with Adml Rainiers Fleet which
was then at that Island, but the Fleet
saild [sic] for Amboyna six days previous
to my arrival. There was no convey-

conveyance to the Moluccas for six
months after. —
      This detention gave an opportunity
of visiting the Mallay [sic] Peninsula & all the
Islands in the Straits of Malacca & Sincapore. [sic]
On the 18th July 96 I sailed from
Malacca on board H.M.'s Transport Glou-
cester Lieut William King, (a good fellow)
On the 18th August we arrived at Soloo,
the principal Island, of an Archipellago [sic]
of the same name, on the 8th Septbr at
the Cape of Good Hope on the coast of
New Guinea, & on the 21st Septbr at the
Island of Amboyna. —
      I remained at these beautiful Islands
for 19 Month, during which time I have
collected & sent off to our the British

poƒseƒsions in India, Cape of Good Hope,
St Helina [sic], Bot. Garden at Kew, & to the
Bt Garden in Jamaica, upwards of
64,500 plants.
      The celebrated Abbe Raynal has infor-
med the publick, that the Banda Isles, as
well as all the other Islands of the Moluccas
are barren to a degree; the Abbe has never been
at the Molluccas, or he would not have given
such a groundleƒs account — I suppose he
got his information, on this head, from some
Lazy Dutchman; I think I have seen as mu
-ch of the Molucca Island as any other person
hitherto, & perhaps more; I have ranged
every part of all the Spice Islands four
different times, and I can say with
confidence that, the soil of Great Banda

and Poola {Aij} are fertile to a degree, and
also that of Amboyna. Earth quakes, Hurri-
-canes, and the dangerous Navigation of
these seas have been also exaggerated.
These reports must have been circulated
with a view to deter other Nations from
approaching these Islands.
      In April 98 I resolved to
quit the Moluccas. particularly, as there
was a good opportunity of taking a large
collection of plants under my own
care; on the 12 I sailed from Amboyna
on board the Triton, under {convoy} of
the Bombay Frigate, we touch at
Bathu-cade a Portuagese [sic] Settlement
on the Island of Timor, this is a
better place to get refreshment than

                                      the article
Coupong [sic] is, except ^ Gula (you recollect our
old friend Wiles, rolling in the Gula that
was upset in his Cabin, soon after we sailed
from Timor in 92. –) on the 23rd of May we
arrived at Madras with 37,089 plants on
board all in the best order; I left at that
{presediney} 2066 plant. —
      On the 13th June sailed from Madras and
arrived at Calcutta 25th with the remaining
35,023 plants.
      Notwithstanding a circuitous
Voyage, I have been fortunate to bring
one Nutmeg tree 14 feet in height, bearing
four Nutmegs, from the Island of Banda
to Calcutta, one of which arrived at
Maturity, and ^ was presented ^ to the Rt Hon'ble

the Earl of Mornington, on the 23rd of
September. It is said his Lordship has
Sent this Nutmeg home to his Majesty. —
      Government applyed [sic] to me to know
what was best to ^ be done with the Spice plants,
I gave my opinion as follows Viz.
      my knowledge of the soil and
climate of Prince Wales Island, which is
similar to that of Amboyna, the great
variety of plants which I have seen at
the Spice Islands and the same kinds
indiginious [sic] to Prince Wales, prompts
me to say, that ^ the Clove & Nutmeg will
thrive at Prince W Island with care,
and become of National benefit.
      To send 10,000 plants to P.W. Island

under my own care, and after having
planted and put them them to rights
there, to allow me (once more) to
proceed to the Moluccas, for the purpose
of procuring all the rare & useful
plants of these Islands, with which they
      His Lordship in Council sanc-
-tion'd these propositions, and on the
17th October I sailed from Calcutta
for P.W. Island with 10,000 plants,
on the 20th we experienced a tremendous
Gale of wind & rain in the bay of
Bengal, which lasted 24 hours with
-out intermiƒsion, we lost all our Ma-
-sts, and was almost become a perfect
wreck, expecting any moment to founder

I was obliged with all my People (six
Natives of the Moluccas & six Bengalies)
for self preservation to work at the
Pumps from 5 A.M. till 2 P.M.
when the Gale abated; this great exertion
brought on a Fever & Ague, of which I
have not ^ yet perfectly recover'd.
      We arrived at P.W. Island 21st Novbr
Since my arrival at this Island I have
cleared about 23 Acres of Land for a Botanic
Garden, after my return from the Molu-
ccas, it is highly probible [sic] that I will
reside here.
      About the 1st July I sailed for the
Moluccas on board the Gloucester, my
continuance then will be about twelve
months. Ships bound to Bengal from

Botany Bay frequently touch at Amboyna
therefore, lose no opportunity of writing me
for I certainly I will be either at the Spice
Islands or Prince Wales Island; and they
never paƒs the latter place, without
touching. Your old ship mate Mr
Moor arrived at Amboyna before I left
it, he was first Lieut of ^ the Hobart Sloop
of war, an old Tub that was falling
to pieces, commanded by Captn Ballard.
      Hearing that ^ Mr Moor was Master of the
Reliance, you ^ will naturally suppose that
I made some inquiries about you, but
I plainly saw that you were not a favo-
rite of his, therefore I did not trouble him
more. He is a violent Republican &

I think it is an unpardonable crime,
particularly at this present time.
      I have received a kind letter from
Colonel Patterson, I consider myself under
great obligations for his attention, make
my best respects to the Colonel, if he is retu-
rned to Boty Bay & tell him that I will
write & send him some Clove & Nutmeg
Plants by the first conveyance.
      Is Captain Raven come out, I am info-
rmed he is, remember me to him. –
      I have had one letter from Wiles
since I have been in India, and that
was in 95 – he told me his annual
Income was equal to one thousand pounds,
I suppose he is too great – now to
correspond with his poor Meƒsmates. –

I have received a very kind letter from
the Rt Hon'ble Sir J. Banks, informing me
of the succeƒs of the Bread fruit, and
of Wiles in Jamaica, the Bread fruit
have born plentifully, and are much
liked in Jamaica.
      I have given directions to my
Agents Meƒsrs Campbell Clark & Co.
Wine merchants in Calcutta, to send
you by the first opportunity, Six Dozen
of Madeira wine, one Doz Shirts, marked
M.F. one Doz Towels, two black Stocks, one
case of Spirits, and Twenty pounds
Sterling.       Continue in the Navy,
time & patience will bring things about
in favor, conduct yourself as you have

have hitherto and I will not be dis-
appointed in my opinion of you, and
that is your becomeing [sic] a great ^ Man yet.
      You will always find in me a
faithful friend – and you may rely
on it that you shall never want for a
Guinea as long as I am in poƒseƒsion
of two.
      Though situations has removed us
a great distance apart, yet my regard
for you have not in the least diminished
      You will find in me more fidelity
perhaps, than you are aware of. — &
I request you will always command
me. I am not a poor man now, at
least I don't think so, my annual Salary
since 96 is £602.10s and I hope it is ra-

raised to £800 per annum, as Lord Morni-
-ngton promised that he would raise it
previous to my departure from Calcutta.
      I am my own Master, I can go to any
of the Eastern Isles I like best, I can remain
as long as I like, there is no person to find
fault with me, as long as I do my duty,
and I am most liberally supported
in all expenses, by the Bengal Govern-
      Your will see by the enclosed
copy of a letter from the Governor Gene-
-ral to Doctor Fleming (who was Superinten-
dant of the Bt Garden in the absence of
Dr Roxburgh) that his Lordship is highly
satisfied with my conduct during my
Miƒsion to the Moluccas.
      I have been informed that there is

Paƒsage between Vandiemans [sic] Land, and
the main land, of New South Wales, and
that you have been deputed to Survey it,
is there any truth in this report.
    If ever you come to Calcutta
call on Campbell & Clark, they will
receive you kindly on my account,
you will ^ find them good hospitable fellows,
and of the first respectabilities.
    I will conclude my
    dear Flinders with wishing
    you every thing you wish
    for yourself.
                  Christr Smith

When you write me, direct your letter for me
at Prince of Wales Island ^ Straits of Malacca or Amboyna

P.S. Since I have writen [sic] this letter I
have been informed by a Mr Barlow
(who belonged to the Sphinx Sloop of war,
who was at the Cape of Good Hope when
you were there, he said that you went
home as first Lieut of the Ruby 64 guns,
Captain Waller.
    Therefore I shall direct my Ag-
-ents to remit the £20 either to Mr Dickson
or Thomas Evans Esqr of the Bullion
Office East India House London

All pages | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | Back to Index
View Print Friendly Version

Related people
Flinders, Matthew
Auchmuty, (Colonel) Sir Samuel
Abercromby, (General) Sir Robert
Shore, Sir John
Rainier, (Admiral) Peter
Mornington, Richard Wellesley (Lord Mornington)
Banks, Sir Joseph
Campbell, Robert
Smith, Christopher
Paterson, Lieutenant Colonel William
Wiles, James

Spice Islands
Cape of Good Hope
Bass Strait
East India House


Words and phrases
Nutmeg and cloves

Related Documents
Other documents received by Flinders, Matthew

Other documents written in 1799